A.nnotate for paperless e-learning

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A.nnotate Links for making notes on resources in Moodle

Cutting down on the use of printed handouts, course materials, and textbooks is a high priority for many schools, colleges and universities both because of the environmental effects of using so much paper, and the direct financial cost of printing them. But paper is still a great way to study because students can underline and highlight key points or write notes in the margin as they learn. In going paperless, it is vital not to cut out these practices, and to offer students a viable alternative.

Several features of A.nnotate have been developed with just this use in mind. The minimal clutter fit-width view (hiding the menu and filling the screen with the document) makes optimal use of space for easy reading. Arrows and page keys offer easy mouse-free navigation, and of course, you can add highlights, tags, arrows, boxes and notes to text and images. And unlike paper, annotations are not tied to a single place. They can be accessed from any computer (including phones and tablets), searched, sorted, filtered and printed, adding a huge range of opportunities to help students learn.

Connecting A.nnotate to Moodle and other VLEs

A.nnotate can easily be used as a standalone system or integrated with existing services. For organizations that already use the Moodle Virtual Learning Environment the process is particularly straightforward thanks to the free open source Moodle plugin. The plugin is installed in the normal way, and then configured to point to the A.nnotate server.

A.nnotate Links plugin

For students to read and annotate resources from Moodle without any additional software or browser plugins.

  • Adds links in Moodle for annotatable resources
  • Automatic account creation and login for registered Moodle users
  • Comfortable on-screen reading
  • Works on PDF, office documents, spreadsheets, web pages and images
  • Highlight mark and tag text
  • Add notes to text and regions of images
  • Security checked and validated by leading universities
  • Open source plugin
Further details


To use the plugins, you need you own A.nnotate server, either installed locally or hosted, and a license to cover the number of separate users who will be making notes. The plugin is supported for Moodle 1.9. A trial version is available for Moodle 2.0.

When course materials are viewed in A.nnotate, there is only one copy of the original document cached on the A.nnotate server, however many students are viewing it. When estimating storage requirements, an allocation of 0.5MB per page and 2MB per student should be largely sufficient for documents, cache and student notes.

On mid-range hardware, the document processing steps can generally handle at least 10,000 pages an hour. Note also that processing only occurs when documents are transferred from Moodle to A.nnotate, so, for example, even if there is a huge spike in activity at assignment submission deadlines, A.nnotate processing only occurs when the tutor accesses them to grade them, so this evens out the A.nnotate processing load.

Copyright and rights management

Where course materials are often licensed for limited electronic distribution, providing access via A.nnotate is normally covered by the same copyright permissions as allow distributing materials via Moodle as long as the A.nnotate server is located and managed in the same way as the Moodle server. Indeed, it is possible to make A.nnotate conform to stricter copyright conditions than Moodle if necessary. By default, the students can download the original document for viewing off-line, but this can be changed so they may only view it through A.nnotate and not download the original. In this way they can still work effectively with the material, but without having access to a version that could be redistributed.